Letters from an American Farmer

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Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (1735—1813) writer on America and farmer


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12 essays by Crèvecœur, published in London in 1782 under the pseudonym J. Hector St. John. These charming and informative essays sketch the physical and social conditions of American rural life. The author fluctuates between the lover of nature and Rousseauistic idealist, and the realistic farmer writing of hard, unpleasant facts. As a theorist, he was ecstatic concerning America as an asylum for the oppressed and a melting pot for many races; as a farmer he described the frontier as it actually was, the difficulties of agriculture, and the warfare between different parts of animal nature. Half of the letters are concerned with the education, employment, manners, and customs of Americans at Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Charleston, and elsewhere. The third answers the question “What is an American?” by stating that, as the product of the melting pot, he is a man who acts on new principles, and must therefore entertain new ideas. The eleventh letter describes a visit to John Bartram, and the last depicts the difficulties of a “frontier man,” menaced on one side by savages, and on the other by the unsettled conditions of a Revolution in which he agrees with neither of the opposed groups.

Subjects: Literature.

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